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CANDLEMASS - Interview with Johan Längquist
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Doom metal band Candlemass
If I say "doom metal", what's the first band name that springs to your mind? Candlemass, right? With Johan Längquist, the guy responsible for laying down the vocal tracks on the cult debut album "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" back on board, the Swedish metal machine is as strong as ever, but that's not news, they've been going strong for some 35 years now. They've just put out a new EP called "The Pendulum", consisting of leftovers from the previous album writing session, as Johan said, "to keep the train going", and that's mainly what we discussed in this short talk.
How does it feel to be back in Candlemass, after three decades of absence?
Actually, it feels very good. We've had such a great one and a half years now, it's awesome. I'm overwhelmed with how well we are treated. Everyone takes care of us when we're out there playing and they love the new record.
I know you've played some anniversary shows with the guys but apart from that, did you keep in touch over the years?
Yeah, we have never met on a regular basis, but I've known them since "Epicus" and we've done a couple of things together and I once helped them out recording some demos when they were looking for another singer.
The songs on the new EP are mostly leftovers from "The Door to Doom" recording session. Why didn't they make the cut for the album?
They were not satisfied with the way the songs were before and they wanted to do something about them. I did the vocals and they changed some guitars and I don't know exactly what else they did, but in the end, they felt that now the songs were good enough to be released.
But most of them are still demo versions...
Yeah, you could say so, but in my opinion, they sound pretty good. I think it's good to keep the Candlemass train moving right now when we're having such a great time. I think people appreciate new songs coming out.
Let's talk about "The Door to Doom". The album was basically finished, but then the guys decided to re-record the vocals, which is where you jumped in. Why didn't they want to keep the previous version?
Yeah, I think it was the same thing as with the songs on "The Pendulum". They weren't exactly satisfied with the way they were, the sound and things like that. I don't know everything that had happened before I got in, but I think so. And then we re-recorded the vocals and they decided it was good enough to be released.
The vocal lines were written with Mats in mind so are your versions very different to the original ones?
Of course, the songs were already made when I got in, but I had to put my touch on them. You can hear if you compare them to each other that it's the same songs, but Mats does it the way he does and I do it my way. We have different kinds of vocals.
Aren't you a little bit disappointed that you had no input in the album writing process?
No, I've been writing music all my life, so I'm pretty cool with Leif writing the songs. He's an awesome songwriter so I have no problem with that at all.
Candlemass isn't exactly known for writing ballads so were you surprised when you heard "Bridge of the Blind"?
Yeah, ha-ha! But I know the song came out that way naturally, and when I heard it for the first time I didn't think that much about it being a ballad. It's a great song so we just recorded it.
You were nominated for Grammy for the best metal performance with "Astorolus - The Great Octopus". Must have been a nice surprise for you?
Yeah, we were in shock, we couldn't believe it was true actually. But we are pretty down to earth and we had no hope that we could win. But we were of course delighted.
Talking about "Astrolus", Tony Iommi played a solo in this tune. Did you get to meet him?
No, that was done before I got in so, unfortunately, I haven't met him. I would love to talk to him, he's definitely one of my biggest guitar heroes of all times.
OK, let's go back in time. When you were recording vocals for the Candlemass debut album, you were just a session musician and I know you didn't really want to join the band as a full-time member. Why?
At the very same time I had my own band called Jonah Quizz and we were about to have a record contract ourselves at that time. A big part of me was in that band, we wrote the songs and we had worked on that thing for a couple of years so I couldn't just leave.
Do you do ever regret not joining Candlemass back then?
No, I don't. What is done is done. I've been into music all of my life, so no, I don't regret it. There's no point regretting things.
I remember reading somewhere that when Messiah left after "Tales of Creation" you actually auditioned for the band. Is that correct?
No, I never did. But they have called me up, I don't know if it happened once or twice because that was so many years ago, but I've done a couple of demo songs with them when they were looking for another singer.
You recorded the first album with the band and then the new one, 33 years apart. Studio work-wise, how different were those two experiences?
Yeah, of course, those are two different times, especially when it comes to recording. But you know, "Epicus", I think I did the whole album within a couple of days. And actually, it didn't take that long to do "The Door to Doom" either. I think it took about a month. I was there a couple of days a week, but we actually were out playing gigs at the same time, so I think it was pretty fast.
You did a tour with Ghost. How was it?
Yeah, that was pretty amazing, you know, playing all the big arenas all around Europe, 14 thousand people at some places, it was awesome. I enjoyed every second of it. And I was surprised with the Ghost audience. Of course, we had the Candlemas fans at the gigs too, but the whole place seemed to enjoy it when we did our shows too. When you're coming out with another band, you don't know what their audiences think about you, but I think they liked it, we stole a couple of hearts there.
And what band would you like to share the stage with the most?
Oh, that should be with one of my favourite singers, of course. Dio is one of my favourite singers, but we can't do that. But I also like Geoff Tate from Queensryche, he's a great guy, Rob Halford of course, he was one of my very first heroes.
What's your favourite Candlemass album, excluding the two which you sang on?
I like "Nightfall" and the songs I'm doing from that album right now, so I would say that one. But there are other very good songs too on the other albums. But let's say "Nightfall".
So, you released an album last year, the new EP is just out, will there be another album?
I think we all would like that to happen, but I'm not the songwriter. But I won't be surprised if Leif comes up with a couple of new songs soon. It's better to ask Leif this question, he is the main writer in the band. But I hope so.
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel
Photo by Linda Åkerberg
Official Candlemass website:
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Tags: Candlemass, doom metal, The Door to Doom, The Pendulum, Johan Langquist
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© 1997-2020 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.